Japan coach Takeshi Okada told his players on Sunday to prepare for the "match of their lives" in the FIFA World Cup™ Group E match against Denmark with a draw enough for the Samurai Blue to reach the last 16.
Both Japan and Denmark have three points going into the final group match, but the Japanese have a better goal difference. The Netherlands are already through with six points while Cameroon were knocked out on Saturday after losing 2-1 to the Danes.
Okada, who was widely criticised before the FIFA World Cup by saying that nothing but a semi-final spot would do, said that his players should seize their opportunity with both hands on Thursday. "We have been given a chance to reach the last 16," said 53-year-old Okada, whose side opened the campaign with a 1-0 victory over Cameroon before losing by the same margin to the Dutch. "This is a chance in our lifetime."
Japan captain Makoto Hasebe said that Okada had told the team to "stake everything on the next game". Hasebe added: "There will be few matches in our lives in which we will have a chance to reach the knockout stages of the World Cup."
Okada said he watched the Denmark-Cameroon match on television and admitted that the Danes' performance had confirmed to him they were in for a tough battle. "I could not find any shortcomings [about the Danes]," said Okada. "Indeed, Denmark have been strong all along. I got the impression that they play well-organised football," Okada said.
Okada highlighted Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner as the dangerman, as the young forward showed he had recovered from injury and scored in the victory over Cameroon. "We must cut off the supply to him [Bendtner]," Okada said.